Carved in a highly polished and very fine-grained siltstone, this small but finely carved head of a sacred ram features holes on the top of the head for insertion of a solar disk and a uraeus and a small hole below the chin for insertion of a divine beard. Two holes on either side of the head were most likely for attachment of the curved horns typical of the species of ram sacred to Amun. The eyes were once inlaid and end in an elegantly elongated canthus. The entire surface is sensitively modeled with softer volumes at the muzzle and sharper lines below along the jaw. Although it is possible that it was once part of a composite statuette, the deeply grooved notches at either side of the rear imply that this head was attached to an item of ritual equipment. A comparable example of a ram’s head in bronze has been suggested by M. Hill to be a figurehead from a portable barque (see no. 64 in Gifts for the Gods: Images from Egyptian Temples) while a greywacke head of an antelope, also in New York, is likely to derive from the prow of a barque of the god Sokar (see D. Arnold, An Egyptian Bestiary, no. 5).
This head of a ram is among a small number of ancient Egyptian objects that were retained by the French savants who accompanied Napoleon’s expedition in Egypt. French capitulation to the British forces in August 1801 resulted in the surrender of the majority of items collected by the French savants (including the famous Rosetta Stone). Personal collections made by the savants could, however, be taken back to France under the conditions of the treaty, and this piece is illustrated as part of a “Collection d’Antiques” in the Description de l’Égypte by engineers Édouard de Villiers du Terrage and Prosper Jollois. Jollois and Villiers du Terrage conducted excavations at Thebes, most prominently in the tomb of Amenhotep III. It is clear that the descendants of these savants retained important material from this and other excavations; in 1907 the descendants of Villiers du Terrage donated royal shabti figures of Amenhotep III to the Louvre.